His long and distinguished career in Israel’s defense establishment has left President Shimon Peres with a permanent positive sentiment toward the Israel Defense Forces.
Whenever possible, Peres tries to visit with an IDF unit on the eve of major Jewish holidays. In keeping with this tradition, Peres, escorted by senior army officers headed by Deputy Chief of Staff, Major-General Gadi Eisenkott and Major-General Yair Golan, GOC Northern Command, toured the northern border on Sunday. In the course of the tour, Peres observed soldiers in the Egoz Reconnaissance Unit engage in military exercises on the Syrian border and also inspected an exhibit of special defense equipment incorporating the most advanced technology at the disposal of the IDF.
Peres was also briefed on the situation along the northern border, and was told that this past March was one of the most violent periods in recent years. Golan told him that there had been several incidents in which there was shooting and bombing from Syria. As a result of the bombing, four soldiers were injured and one is still hospitalized at the Rambam Medical Center. The northern border is subject to constant change depending on developments in the Syrian civil war, said Golan.
“We can see the strengthening of global Islamic Jihad and greater unification among radical Muslim elements”, said Golan. Therefore it was decided to establish an additional division of soldiers specially trained to meet the new security challenges in the region.
A new fence has given expression to IDF concerns, the officers told Peres, but at the same time the IDF has to be constantly alert against infiltration from the Syrian side.
Towards the conclusion of the tour, Peres, using IDF communication equipment spoke to soldiers in the field, telling them that he was watching them with great pride. The nation will be able to celebrate the seder with a full heart thanks to the fact that the IDF is constantly on guard, he said. “In order to have a democratic and Jewish state, we must first have a secure state and you are the ones who are contributing security to each and every person by serving day and night in the most exceptional manner.”
It was a great pleasure to watch them, Peres told the soldiers, and a joy to know that Israel is being defended by a young and wonderful generation of soldiers.
Peres wished the soldiers a happy Passover and together with the officers, raised a toast to them.
Relating to Syrian unrest, Peres said that Hafez al-Assad, the father of the present Syrian leader had been an obstinate man, but had kept order on the border. "Now there is chaos, and Syria will never return to what it was in the past. It’s over." Peres noted that elsewhere in the Middle East, young Arabs had succeeded in toppling dictatorships, but had failed to do so in Syria. "In Syria, no one knows who’s fighting whom,” he said.
Peres also referred to the terrorist groups operating in Syria and said they were made up of different elements, but were all barbaric and fanatic. He was aware that this was yet another burden which the soldiers in the IDF must bear everyday, knowing that the way they judged a situation was crucial, he said. “A premature bullet could upset the balance,” Peres noted as he thanked the soldiers in the name of the nation.